1. Go Roman
See what the Romans did for us with their legacy of the Roman Baths, a must-see in Bath, featuring the Sacred Spring and Roman Temple and Bath House. Elsewhere, the remains of the Chedworth Roman Villa at Chedworth, Gloucestershire, is one of the grandest villas found in Britain with stunning mosaics.
2. Think contemporary
England is not all ‘olde worlde’. Style mavens flock to the Hauser and Wirth Gallery, Bruton, Somerset, an 18th century farm converted into a contemporary art space. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, Cornwall, is a must-see, while the cutting-edge Tate St Ives gallery reopens in 2017.
3. Get stoned
Wonder at the prehistoric ‘standing stone’ circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, near Salisbury, the Rollright Stones, Long Compton in the Cotswolds or Boswens Menhir, near the Tregeseal circle, St Just, Cornwall. See Dorset’s incredible Jurassic Coast where rock layers reveal history spanning 185 million years.
4. Hug a tree
England does trees like nowhere else with fabulous woodlands and ancient forests. Visit Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, the setting for scenes in Star Wars and J.R.R.Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle Earth. Arboretums in the Cotswolds include Batsford near Moreton-in-Marsh and Westonbirt near Tetbury.
5. Walk this way
Make the most of hundreds of miles of marked walking trails and woodland or field rambles. The 600 mile (965km) Southwest Coastal Path begins in Somerset, ends in Dorset and includes the entire length of the Devon and Cornish coasts with easy access along the way for short and long hikes.
6. Eat like a local
Thanks to passionate producers, each region has its specialities. Think asparagus in the Cotswolds, hand-made cheeses, artisan bakeries, local meats, signature crab, lobster, mussels and seafood of the Cornish, Devon and Dorset coasts, clotted cream and ice cream. Visit farm shops (many have good cafes) to see why local is the buzzword.
7. Follow a film trail
Trace Graham Winston’s 18th century Cornish Poldark saga, the new BBC remake of the blockbuster TV series starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson. Visit film locations included Charlestown near St Austell, Church Cove at Gunwallow on The Lizard Peninsula, Porthgwarra Cove, Bodmin Moor, Padstow, St Agnes Head, Truro.
8. Aim high for top views
Drift over Bristol and the neighbouring countryside in a hot air balloon; walk the 6 mile/9.5km Bath Skyline Walk; climb to the castle high on Cornwall’s St Michael’s Mount; climb the Lizard Lighthouse in Cornwall; walk to the chalk ‘White Horse’ on the Wiltshire Downs.
9. Ride a steam train
Chuff chuff buffs are spoiled for choice in the southwest with Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway, Gloucestershire; the Dean Forest Railway; the Avon Valley Railway, Bristol; the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, Devon; the Dartmouth Steam railway, Devon; the Swanage Railway, Dorset, to name just a few.
10. Taste top drops
Traditionally apple cider country, microbreweries are booming as are vineyards with wine tasting at Three Choirs, Newent, Gloucestershire and others. Gin is trending news, visit Plymouth Gin, Plymouth, Britain’s oldest working distillery; slip east to the transformed Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire (book a cocktail-making masterclass).
11. Find a perfect pub
Many ‘public houses’ were once coaching inns, stops for travellers, horses and coaches. Today the quest for the perfect pub is a national sport and they come in all shapes and sizes from haunts for real ale fans to upmarket foodie pubs.
12. Mind your manors
Stately homes, castles and gardens are part of the fabric of England. Some are icons also many smaller properties, places of interest and open spaces with ancient connections. Planning to see a few, consider an English Heritage Pass, National Trust Touring Pass.